In the wake of the new regulations on international student visas from U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement this week, the University of Oklahoma announced it will form a task force to seek solutions for its international students.
In a letter to the OU community, President Joe Harroz Jr. and Interim Senior Vice President and Provost Jill Irvine said Irvine will be creating a task force chaired by College of International Studies Dean Scott Fritzen.
According to the letter, the task force will be “meeting frequently to assess the situation and the tangible steps OU is taking to support and aggressively advocate for our international students.”
U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced Monday that international students will have 10 days from when their university announces they are moving strictly to online classes to leave the country or face “immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings.” ICE also announced that students who attend universities that do not go completely online may only “take a maximum of one class or three credit hours online.”
Harroz and Irvine’s letter notes that while ICE has issued guidance about the new guidelines, the agency has not published a formal rule.
While OU is “actively working with state, federal, and campus partners to seek a change in this rule,” the university is still reviewing the guidance and trying to understand its full implications for international students, according to the letter. The university plans to return to campus this fall, and will be offering a mix of in-person and online classes.
“Let there be no mistake: like many other institutions across higher education, we at OU share the view of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities that the proposed changes are incredibly unfair, harmful, and unworkable,” Harroz and Irvine’s letter said. “We urge a reconsideration in the name of public health, equity, and the ideals of global engagement on which our great public universities are founded.”
The university’s task force will meet with student representatives and the OU community to keep everyone informed of their efforts, the letter said.
OU junior Bruno Esmeraldo of Brazil said he wants to see OU take more direct action rather than just set up a task force. International students told The Transcript Wednesday that ICE’s guidelines have created uncertainty and challenges.
“(OU’s) course of action is not as clear as we were hoping for,” Esmeraldo said. “... I can only hope (the task force) will be effective. But given all the issues that have happened over my past two years at OU and those task forces that were created, they seem to be lacking the appropriate response.”
Esmeraldo said he is happy to see OU advocate for international students, but still worries about the new ICE regulations.
According to Esmeraldo, students from Brazil — a country on which the Trump administration has imposed a travel ban due to the COVID-19 pandemic — already have to jump through a lot of hoops to get to the U.S for the fall semester. These regulations add extra challenges to Esmeraldo’s pursuit of studies at OU, he said.
“Because of the ban on Brazil we have to quarantine 14 days in some other country, like Mexico, before we can even attempt to enter the U.S,” Esmeraldo said. “So, we would like to have more direct action sooner rather than later, but hearing about the task force did kind of calm us down.”
A rally is planned for 9 a.m Monday on OU’s North Oval to protest the new ICE regulations. The rally is titled “PROTECT OUR STUDENTS! Rally for International Student Rights.”
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